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by Peter Alexander Gottesman 

Nature’s vivid colors, wondrous forms and 
sensuous surfaces inspired Louis Comfort Tiffany 
throughout his life, leading him, as Paris gallery 
owner Siegfried Bing observed, to present ‘nature 
in her most seductive aspects.’ 

Louis Comfort Tiffany, 1878 photo, private collection 

Being exposed to the finer things in life and to 
artistic luxury objects from an early age clearly had 
an effect on Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933). 
However, Louis Tiffany did not follow his famous 
father Charles into the family silver and jewelry 
business, which his father had worked so tirelessly 
to establish in New York City. Instead, the passionate 
and artistic Louis sought make his own mark; Louis 
wanted to become a painter, and in 1865 he persuaded 
his father to send him overseas on a grand trip to Eu- 
rope, to absorb the works of the great masters such 
as Titian and Da Vinci. 

While in France, the young Tiffany fell in love with 
the magnificent stained glass windows of Chartres 
Cathedral and Notre Dame — a love he would one 
day translate to a uniquely American style of stained 
glass. Tiffany also was enthralled by Europe’s idyllic 
countryside, such as in Italy, where he would spend 
hours sketching scenes of the natural world. With- 
out doubt, explains Tiffany scholar Alice Cooney 
Frelinghuysen of The Metropolitan Museum of 
Art, “Nature was really his passion — it comes out 
even in the earliest sketches he did on the first trip 
that he took to Europe; tiny 3x4 inch sketches of 
one aspect of a flower, or a little landscape scene; 
and this became his credo essentially, through- 
out the rest of his career; some people call it ‘the 
religion of beauty.’ He almost practiced ‘the religion 
of nature.’ ” 

By 1800, although Louis’s father Charles had become 
the most famous jeweler in America, Louis was still 
determined to make a name for himself in the world 
of art. “He originally had hoped to be a great painter, 
and he was a very good painter, but he realized he was 
not going to be another Monet. And he wanted to 
make his mark in history and do something that was 
very unique and distinguished,” recounts Harry Platt, 
the great grandson of Louis Comfort Tiffany. 

And so it was, after shifting his focus from paint- 
ing, and after some very successful years as an inte- 
rior designer, that Louis began experimenting with 
the medium he had been smitten by since visiting 
the French cathedrals of Chartres, Notre Dame 
and Sainte-Chapelle — stained glass. When Louis 
opened his own glass factory in 1886, his timing 
could not have been better; during the 1880s the 
U.S. experienced a religious revival, and as hun- 

88 | MYTHIX: Icons of Culture 

dred of churches were erected across the country, 
parishioners wanted stained glass windows to 
match the beauty of those in Europe’s cathedrals. 
Like his father, Louis was a master of self promo- 
tion, and soon his was the largest stained glass 
studio in America. As Alice Cooper Lrelinghuysen 
of the Metropolitan Museum of Art describes, “He 
managed to have articles and press releases sent 
out to every local newspaper whenever a Tiffany 
stained glass window was unveiled [in a church]. 
His name was just very much quickly propelled to 
the forefront of the public.” 

Tiffany’s church windows became so popular, 
that wealthy Americans wanted his stained glass 
designs in their own homes. These new commis- 
sions allowed Louis Comfort Tiffany to incorpo- 
rate the theme he loved most: nature. His secular 
windows showcased landscapes, flowing waterfalls, 
animals and exotic birds. Tiffany also found other 
domestic uses for his glass which highlighted na- 
ture’s beauty, including decorative hand blown 
vases and the brilliantly-fashioned lamps which are 
now synonymous with his name. 

Not only was his innovative glass stunning to behold, 
but his use of light was unrivaled. As Tiffany’s great 
grandson Harry Platt explains, “What he achieved 
that was unique in history with these windows, as 
well as the lampshades, was his use of light. No artist 
was ever to achieve that luminosity on canvas that he 
achieved through stained glass, which was using light 
as a major component in the whole design.” 

Tiffany drew widely and deeply upon nature, and it 
was central to his quest for beauty. His interest in 
nature was far reaching — he drew upon fish, sea 
creatures, and insects for decorative motifs, and on 
a vast array of plant life, flowers, and animals for 
objects themselves. He was an avid gardener, bring- 
ing exotic plant species to his magnificent estate, 
Laurelton Hall, in Long Island. The common 
blooms of local woodlands and fields, however, were 
Tiffany’s favorites, such as ferns and Queen Anne’s 
Lace (See photo below & vase, right). The elaborate 
gardens of Tiffany’s Long Island home were a living 
testimony to his passion for the natural world. 

Queen Anne’s Lace photographed by Louis C. Tiffany 


Tiffany’s lifelong preoccupation with gardens 
inspired him to create some of the most naturalistic 
depictions of flowers and plants in the history of 
stained glass and glassware. His success with these 
subjects was enhanced by the heightened aware- 
ness of landscape during the second half of the 
nineteenth century, when publications on gar- 

90 I MYTHIX: Icons of Culture 

dens and plants, and especially flowers, prolifer- 
ated. Tiffany amassed a huge library on all aspects 
of horticulture, and was an avid collector (and 
photographer himself) of photographs of flowers 
and plants. 

Winged creatures drew Tiffany’s attention as well, 
for their awe-inspiring forms, and especially for their 
iridescence. Indeed, Tiffany biographer Charles de 
Kay describes the Favrile glass Tiffany pioneered 
as “distinguished by certain remarkable shapes and 
brilliant or deeply toned colors, usually iridescent 
like the wings of certain American butterflies, the 
necks of pigeons and peacocks, and the wing-covers 
of various beetles.” 

Queen Anne’s Lace pottery vase, 8 inches high 

MYTHIX: Icons of Culture | 91 

In addition to sketching and painting watercolors 
directly from nature since his youth, Louis was un- 
questionably influenced by Edward C. Moore, the 
guiding genius of silver design at Tiffany & Co., his 
father’s firm. Moore was one of the earliest Ameri- 
can Japonists, absorbing the Japanese fascination 
with the most ordinary elements of nature as well 
as a meticulous attention to detail. 

Seaweed, c. 1900-10, watercolor on paper 

Seaweed-Motif Brooch, c. 1906, 
gold, pearls, enamel 



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Morning Glories sketch, 1913, watercolor on paper 


Of all of Tiffany’s artistic endeavors, stained glass brought him by far the greatest recognition. From 1877 
through the 1920’s, his firm produced thousands of stained glass windows for buildings in North America, 
and in Great Britain, France and Australia. 

Starting in the late 1870s Tiffany and his American stained glass rival John La Farge revolutionized the art of 
stained glass. Before their innovations, the craft had been essentially unchanged since medieval times, when 
the details of stained glass were painted on flat glass panes with glass paints, and then fired, before being 
held together with lead solder. 

But Louis Tiffany created a stunningly fresh visual realism in stained glass, by cutting out the actual shapes 
of detailed objects from glass (i.e. an individual leaf, a flower petal, a grape, a bird’s feather or beak), and then 
inserting these tiny glass pieces one by one into the larger stained glass creation, rather than merely paint- 
ing such details on top of a flat glass pane, as had been done for centuries. Not only were Tiffany’s colored 
windows composed of realistically-cut pieces which followed the natural outlines of objects, but these 
individual pieces were often rounded, and protruded from the pane — instead of lying flat and lifeless. 

Ecclesiastical Nature Windows 

Deviating completely from accepted themes 
for church windows, Tiffany eliminated the 
biblical figures from many of his compositions, 
conferring religious significance instead on the 
landscape and the natural world itself. His me- 
morial windows in churches and mausoleums 
often featured forests, streams meandering 
through mountain valleys, or floral motifs. 

Irises were among the flowers Tiffany pre- 
ferred for memorial windows. Often used as 
a symbol of the Virgin Mary, the plant is fre- 
quently grown near water, enabling Tiffany to 
combine the flower with another of his favorite 
themes that also had religious significance. 

Tiffany's largest church landscape window — 
featuring waterfalls and rambling streams, 
was installed in the Central Baptist Church in 
Providence, RI. It aroused fierce controversy 
among the congregation due to its lack of reli- 
gious figures. 

Design for figural window, Louis C. Tiffany ca . 1910-1920, 
watercolor over graphite 


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(Top) Window panel with swimming 
fish , leaded glass, Ca. 1890 

The motif of carp seen through rip- 
pling water was borrowed from 
Japan - where ornamental koi were a 
beloved fish in garden ponds . Here , 
green and blue striations in the glass 
itself mimic the currents of the water 
Tiffany enjoyed the interplay of glass 
and water 

(Right) Window with Parakeets and 
Goldfish Bowl, leaded favrile glass, 
Tiffany Glass & Decorating Co., Ca. 

(Left) Helen Gould Landscape 
Window with deer, autumn trees and 
river, leaded favrile glass, Tiffany 
Studios, New York 1910 


Tiffany combined his keen eye as a colorist and natu- 
ralist with new glass-making technologies to produce 
blown glass objects with surfaces, textures and hues 
that had never been seen. He created stunning new 
color effects in glass, and gave his glass creations the 
illusion of three-dimensionality and movement. 

Tiffany also infused heated metallic oxide fumes into 
the glass itself, to achieve spectacular iridescence — 
a dazzling innovation. He gave his glass the name 
“Fabrile,” derived from the Old English fabrile , mean- 
ing “handwr ought,” to signify that each piece was 
hand-blown and unique. The name was changed by 
1894 to the more sonorous “Favrile.” 

Tiffany translated his love for plants, flowers, birds 
and animals into many kinds of glass vessels. 

(Top) Plum-shaped bowl decorated with 
plums , enamel on copper, 1899. Bold 
three-dimensional sculpting was used to 
create naturalistic, plump deep purple 
plums and translucent green foliage that 
envelop the large round bowl. This bowl 
remained in Tiffany's personal collection 
and later passed to The Metropolitan 
Museum of Art, New York 

(Right) Peacock Vase, favrile glass, ca. 1900, 
collection of The Metropolitan Museum of 
Art. The shimmering, iridescent plumage 
of peacocks inspired this extraordinary favr- 
ile glass vase. Tiffany adored peacocks and 
kept them at his Long Island estate, Laurel- 
ton Hall. He often had the birds brought 
down form the barn to strut around the 
grounds. In fact, one of the most elaborate 
parties Tiffany threw at Laurelton was his 
Peacock Feast of May 1914. A vase with 
peacock-feather design was known to have 
graced the living hall of his estate. 

98 | MYTHIX: Icons of Culture 

Favrile glass vase inform of tree truck , 1895-1910 

Silver-colored favrile glass vase inform of tree 
truck, 1895-1910 

MYTHIX: Icons of Culture | 99 

(L to R) Two photos of the same vase. Among Tiffany's favorite pieces was this unusually large dark vase with sensu- 
ous , abstract floral decoration , ca. 1903. It is one of the few objects he chose to illustrate in color in the luxurious 
biography of his life's work which he commissioned in 1914. Tiffany himself described it as having a (< black body of 
soft texture with blue iridescent decorations suggesting iris'.' 

Like many favrile glass objects , the vase changes color as light strikes it In normal reflected light it appears black 
with azure decoration - yet when light shines directly through it , the body metamorphoses into dark green, and the 
decorations become yellow and green. 


The fascination with light which led Tiffany to make 
breathtaking innovations in stained glass also made 
him one of the first to incorporate electric lighting 
into his artistic designs. Tiffany began experiment- 
ing artistically with electric lighting in 1885, and in 
1899 he introduced table lamps with bulbs shielded 
by colorful leaded-glass shades. 

The lampshades were essentially stained glass 
windows wrapped around a light source. Intricate 
arrangements of semi-translucent glass pieces, 
Tiffany’s lampshades were the perfect comple- 
ments for harsh, early electric bulbs — lighting his 
colorful glass, shielding the eyes from the bright 
light and directing it downward. They provided soft 
illumination inside a wonderfully artistic object. 

Despite their popular appeal, Tiffany was ambiva- 
lent about his lamps: they were left out of the lavish 
Tiffany biography by Charles de Kay commissioned 
by Tiffany, which included every other medium in 
which the he worked. 

Undoubtedly, Tiffany’s desire to create unique 
decorative objects for the home conflict- 
ed philosophically with the manufacture of 
these lampshades in multiples. Yet the very 
existence of lampshade patterns and models in his 
factory, and the increasing volume of orders, led to 

And so, although the craftsmanship and art- 
istry of his stained glass lampshades was 
exquisite, this conflict between the reproduced 
object and the ideal of a unique work of art was 
difficult for Tiffany to reconcile in his role as a 
creative artist. Like his father, the mass market held 
no interest for Louis Comfort Tiffany. Indeed, all 
of Louis’s creations — including his lamps — could 
only be afforded by the very well-to-do. 

In 1913 Tiffany rationalized his earlier decision to 
abandon painting for the decorative arts, saying: 

"Yet the fact that things of daily use like 
lamps, flower- vases, and toilet articles reach a 
wider public than do paintings and sculpture 
make the 'decorative arts' more important to 
a nation than the 'fine arts.' " 

Photograph of dragonfly, collection Louis C. Tiffany. 

The dragonfly was a common motif in Japanese art, 
representing late summer and early autumn — and 
also marital success. 

102 | MYTHIX: Icons of Culture 

Lamp with Dragonfly Shade, 

Tiflany Studios New York, ca, 1900-1910 



Virgina Creeper table lamp, favrile glass 
and bronze, ca. 1900-1905, probably a 
unique commission . 

The open network of tangled branches at 
the top, and the compact pattern of stalk 
and berried foliage on the base's column 
replicate the natural growth of the Vir- 
gina Creeper, and integrate this magnifi- 
cent lamp’s design. 

Due to the blended autumnal coloration 
and the shape of its leaves, this lamp was 
for many years erroneously called the 
Maple Lamp. 


By freeing glass mosaics from their traditional 
square-cut pieces and primary colors, Tiffany was 
able to create extraordinary, luminous illusions in 
mosaic which were previously impossible. 

Cypress trees (top right), detail of a masterful 
Tiffany mosaic fountain in the American Wing of 
the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The tall, slen- 
der cypresses, fashioned from Tiffany’s distinctive 
mottled greens and yellows, are pieced together 
from custom-cut, asymmetrical glass fragments 
which form the outlines of the trees. Long horizon- 
tal slivers accentuate the sky, while vertical pieces 
form the cypress trees. 

Both intense and subtle, Tiffany’s rich color 
effects (reminiscent of the antique mosaics he 
admired in Ravenna, Italy) were achieved by juxta- 
posing tiny shapes of slightly varying hues. This per- 
mitted subtle nuances, and produced a more faithful 
rending of nature. 

(Right) Parrot panel, irridesent glass mosaic, 1910 

106 | MYTHIX: Icons of Culture 


Tiffany's love of the natural extended to the geological world - both vast landscapes (below left) 
and minute mineral striations (below right). Even molten volcanic rock and multicolored stones dug from 
the Earth were aspects of nature Tiffany paid tribute to in glass. 


Tiffany’s agate vessels imitated the undulating layers of color found in true agate. Agate glass was first 
produced by the Romans of Alexandria, and later mastered by the Venetians of the late fifteenth century. 
In Tiffany’s version, brown, cream and yellow hues were commingled. After the vessel had cooled and 
hardened, it was cut in facets to enhance its stone like appearance. 

Yellowstone Canyon, watercolor and gauche on tinted 
paper, Louis C. Tiffany, 1917 

Agate Vase, favrile glass, Tiffany Furnaces, 1910 


A visit to Mount Etna in Sicily during an eruption is said to have inspired Tiffany to capture in glass the 
force and beauty of the molten volcanic flows and rock formations he observed there in 1870. Tiffany’s lava 
glass was irregularly shaped to give the effect of a molten flow Though the technique was one of Tiffany’s 
most innovative, the great pressures of expanding metal oxides during heating led many lava vases to break 
in production. Hence, prohibitively priced for most Americans, lava glass became the preserve of Tiffany’s 
most affluent private clients and museums. 

108 I MYTHIX: Icons of Culture 

(Opposite page) Lava Vase, favrile glass, ca. 1918. 

The blackened surface of this vessel is coated with 
particularly thick iridescent gold. Its irregular form 
embodies the molten rush of lava — which Tiffany 
recreated with molten glass. Molten streams of gold 
ooze over the crater-like rim of this squat , misshapen 
vase. Tiffany showed his love of the irregular and 
accidental in nature by marking this favorite vase 
an “Exhibition Piece’.’ Automobile tycoon Walter 
Chrysler particularly admired Tiffany’s lava glass , 
and acquired this vase for his personal collection. 

(Below) Lava Bowl, favrile glass, 1908. This bowl is 
perhaps the most extraordinary of Tiffany’s lava vessels. 
Its broad areas of golden-luster glass, both smooth and 
flecked , vividly recall melting rock spilling down the sides 
of a volcano. It’s organic shape and surface texture 
appears to have been dictated by the molten glass. 

Such optical effects , achieved by ingenious techniques 
that used texture , color ; and layering to react to 
different lighting conditions , give favrile glass its 
magnificence and vitality. 

MYTHIX: Icons of Culture | 109 


The cameo technique involved attaching colored 
glass shapes to the outside of a glass vase, then 
engraving these shapes with fine detail. 

Lily pads and Queen Anne’s lace, two of Tiffany’s 
favorites, are featured in the nearly colorless incised 
vase shown on the opposite page. These natural 
forms were created by carving through one or more 
layers of glass. 

This breathtaking vase (opposite page) is gracefully 
subtle — its colorless body deepening to a pale, 
pearly blue opalescent at the top. The lily pads are 
carved from a light spring green glass applied to the 
lower part of the vase, with stems of the same color 
seeming to float to the top of the vessel. The deli- 
cate cut blossoms of Queen Anne’s lace have been 
executed in an extraordinarily skillful manner with 
each minute floret fully articulated, and the blos- 
soms, in different states of maturity, rendered from 
many different angles. 

The fluidity of the design conceals the la- 
boriousness of its execution; such work was 
painstaking and time consuming which may 
account for the small number of Tiffany cameo-cut 
vases in existence today. Striving to forge new forms 
of American art, Tiffany may also have been reluc- 
tant to work in a medium so closely identified by 
the public with English and Continental European 
glasshouses, such as those of Stourbridge, Bohemia 
and Alsace-Lorraine. 

(Above) Intricately-layered orange , white & green 
cameo vase , inscribed L.C.T. 

(Right) Louis Comfort Tiffany ; Tiffany Glass and 
Decorating Company ; Probably carved by Tiffany's 
Austrian-born engraver Fredolin Kreischmann 
( 1853-1898 ). Vase , 1895-98. Engraved Favrile glass. 
Krieschmann’s obituary noted “he often worked four 
months on a single piece!' 

110 | MYTHIX: Icons of Culture 


Tiffany’s work in enamel was a logical extension of 
his work in glass: enamel is glass and glass silicate 
which is colored with metallic oxides, then applied 
to copper or other metals and fired at high tem- 

The Tiffany Glass and Decoration Co. factory in 
Corona, Long Island began making enamel ob- 
jects in 1898. Louis Comfort Tiffany’s enamels 
are deliberately based on native American plants 
and insects, often humble varieties. Meticulous 
watercolor studies of these nature-themed enamel 
objects exist. 

Inkstand with Mushroom Cluster, enamel on copper, ca. 1902 

Butterfly box , enamel on copper ; /wfy 28, i902, inscribed Louis C. Tiffany. 

Box with Salamanders, enamel on copper, Ca. 1900. Cicada box, enamel on copper, ca. 1899-1904, made for 

Tiffany’s personal collection. 

Enamel on copper jar decorated with Indian Pipes , 
a wildflower whose semi-translucent white stems and 
flowers form one beautiful , connected stalky entity. A 
masterpiece of Art Nouveau design , exhibited at the 
1900 Paris Exposition Universelle. 


After his father’s death in 1902, Louis Comfort Tiffany became the artistic director of his father’s firm, Tif- 
fany and Company. Louis’s familiarity with jewelry manufacturing at the firm, as well as his collaboration 
with his father on several pieces for the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1900, had already inspired him to 
produce jewelry at this own workshops on Twenty-third Street. Louis’s earliest pieces, including the grape 
cluster necklace and the dragonfly and dandelion hair ornament shown here, were made when Tiffany 
began experimenting, in much secrecy, with jewelry design. 

However, unlike the formal jewelry made by Tiffany & Company, Louis’s pieces were often asymmetrical, 
with fluid lines and organic shapes, expressive of his desire to replicate natural forms. Louis’s jewelry mo- 
tifs show his fondness for insects and plants, especially uncultivated varieties such as Queens Anne’s Lace, 
blackberries, dandelions, and wild grape. Many of Louis’s pieces feature dragonflies, and on one curious 
pendant he paired a peacock with a pink flamingo. 

Design and craftsmanship were far more important to Louis than opulence. As a result, Louis broke new 
ground by using semiprecious stones - opals, moonstones, garnets, amethysts and coral - in contrast to 
the precious gems which had typically been favored by Tiffany and Company. The semiprecious stones em- 
bodied qualities that Louis valued in other media. For example, the milky quality of moonstones resembled 
the opalescence of his glass, and the fiery glow of opals, the rainbow iridescence of Favrile vases. Tiffany set 
these stones in inventive ways - mimicking natural forms, often in combination with enamel. The brilliant 
translucence of the enamels complemented the luminescence of the stones for a colorful effect similar to 
that of his light-filled stained glass windows. Tiffany was also one of the earliest jewelers to use platinum, 
a metal new to the industry at the turn of the century. 

Medusa Pendant — 
loosely representing a 
jellyfish. Described in 
Tiffany’s authorized 
biography as “A marine 
motif, half crab, half 
octopus... with... writhing 
feet” Its tentacles are 
studded with demantoid 
garnets, & the bejeweled 
creature is inlaid with 
opals, sapphires and 
rubies on 14kt. Gold, 
ca. 1904. Hand-colored 

116 | MYTHIX: Icons of Culture 

One of the earliest examples of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s jewelry is this necklace composed of 
a series of grape-clusters and leaves. Tiny circular black opals represent the fruit, and enam- 
eling in shades of green on gold forms the delicate shimmering leaves. The finely executed 
enamel and gold reveal the hand wrought character of the jeweler’s craft. Tiffany chose the 

necklace as one of the twenty-seven pieces to be made for the Louisiana Purchase Exposi- 
tion of 1904, and it is the only of those exhibited known to survive. (The necklace came to 

the Metropolitan Museum of Art from Sarah Hanley, Louis’s nurse and later companion, to 
whom he must have presented it.) 

Grape Vine Necklace, opals, gold and enamel, ca. 1904 

One of the most extraordinary pieces of Louis’s jew- 
elry to survive is this hair ornament - a remarkably 
realistic rendering of two dragonflies resting on a 
pair of dandelion puffs, or seed balls. 

Dating to roughly the same year as the grape-clus- 
ter necklace, it shows the plants not at the height 
of bloom, but in a natural fading state, just before 
the seeds are blown away. Remarkably, one of the 
puffs is portrayed as already partially stripped of its 

The striking interpretation was achieved by the use 
of delicately worked platinum for the silken strands 
of the puffs, with green and yellow enamel on the 
small leaves just below them. The strands are sur- 
rounded by an almost imperceptible network of 
platinum that forms a sphere, to which minute dots 
of white enamel were applied. 

The dragonflies’ backs consist of a row of graduated 
black opals in a rich fiery blue, while the heads and 
eyes are pink opals and green demantoid garnets. 
An almost unbelievable creation in metal filigree, 
the gossamer-like wings were said to be a special 
alloy of iridium and platinum. All of these elements 
have been combined in a masterfully intricate de- 
sign - in a true feat of jeweler’s genius. 

Tiffany Studios: The Bottom Line 

By the 1890s, although Louis Tiffany was sell- 
ing hundreds of thousands of dollars of glass 
objects each year, his factory was losing money. 
Yet this never seemed to bother Louis - for he 
was more artist than businessman. He never paid 
much attention to the bottom line, and was more 
concerned with how an object looked than how 
it sold. 

“He always looked for the best materials. He 
didn’t skimp, and in so doing he unquestionably 
incurred tremendous costs. And word has it that 
his father, or he, would then personally bail out 
any difficulty that his studio had run that year.” 

- Alice Clooney Frelinghuysen, Curator, 
Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

MYTHIX: Icons of Culture | 119 


This exquisite box shows Tiffany’s infatuation with ancient Egypt, particularly its 
emphasis on the incredible forms — and mystery — of the living world. The discovery of King 
Tutankhamen’s treasure-laden tomb in 1922 by Howard Carter sparked an intense interest 
in ancient Egypt in Europe and America. 

This exquisite scarab humidor shows 
Tiffany’s infatuation with ancient 
Egypt , particularly its emphasis on 
the incredible forms — and mystery 
— of the living world . A circular 
metal hatch representing the sun 
lies between two inlaid favrile glass 
scarabs , whose legs and wings are 
carved in wood, ca. 1908. 

Scarabs or Dung Beetles, were closely 
associated with the sun by ancient 
Egyptians, who saw a similar miracle 
of rebirth in the round sun’s daily 
setting and rising and the baby dung 
beetle’s miraculous birth from eggs 
laid in lifeless, perfectly -spherical 
balls of cow dung which adult beetles 
roll across the desert. The discovery 
of King Tutankhamen’s treasure- 
laden tomb in 1922 by Englishman 
Howard Carter sparked an intense 
curiosity in ancient Egypt in Europe 
and America. 

18-karat gold “Four Seasons” jewel box which Tiffany & Co. exhibited 
at the 19 IS San Francisco Exposition. The cloisonne enamel panels 
represent: spring — a flowering cherry branch and tulips; summer — 
a chestnut branch and poppies; autumn — grapes and peaches; winter 
- snow-covered pine branches and fire. White opals , tourmalines , blue 
and pink sapphires, and chysoprases surround the enamel panels. 

Tiffany the Man 

Louis Comfort Tiffany was a flamboyant man - he loved dressing up in costumes and he loved a good party. 

These habits were undoubtedly aided by his being born into the vast riches of his father, Charles, the pre- 
eminent merchant of his day. However, Louis tried to keep the flamboyant side his personality in check, so 
as not to offend his more conservative father, who lived modestly despite being exceedingly wealthy - and 
was known to turn down coveted invitations to society balls. 

Louis, in contrast, overlooked no expense in throwing an elaborate ancient Egyptian themed costume ball 
at Tiffany Studios at 345 Madison Avenue in 1913. He mailed invitations, complete with hieroglyphics, to 
a who’s who list of New York society. The precise theme was ancient Egypt at the time of Cleopatra - and 
Louis himself presided over every detail of the festivities, dressed as an Egyptian prince. Mr. and Mrs. John 
D. Rockefeller Jr. came, she dressed as Minerva, he as a Persian. 

The ball was set specifically in Alexandria, Egypt, on the very day Cleopatra VII was awaiting the return of 
Marc Antony from “distant lands.” Tiffany hired Egyptologist and artist Joseph London Smith of Boston to 
ensure the authenticity of the every detail - and Tiffany made certain his guests’ costumes were as perfect as 
his own: 

“Everbody had to come dressed for the time of Cleopatra, whether 
they came dressed as Greeks or Romans, and they all had to go out 
and get a costume, and the costume had to be approved by a com- 
mittee that Louis Comfort ran. In other words, you just couldn't go 
out and throw something together and expect to be allowed in. You 
had to get your costume approved before you could even come to 

the party.” 

- Harry Platt, Great grandson of Louis Comfort Tiffany. 

Louis was a perfectionist as well as an artistic pioneer. He was a dedicated artist and a serious worker - 
whether creating a new texture of glass, detailing a sketch, or designing his Long Island estate’s architecture 
and gardens. He demanded a great deal of himself, and of his children. His suits were impeccably tailored 
and his hair and beard always neatly trimmed. During the summer he wore only white linen suits, which he 
changed several times a day if they became smudged or soiled. “He cared about how he looked and about 
how the things around him looked. He wanted his surroundings to be beautiful.” - Alice Cooney Frelin- 
ghuysen, Curator, Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

122 I MYTHIX: Icons of Culture 

Louis Comfort Tiffany (left) in Egyptian regalia , and his daughter (right) 
dressed as Cleopatra at the ancient Egyptian fete, 1913. 



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Hieroglyphics on the invitation to Tiffany's Egyptian fete 

MYTHIX: Icons of Culture | 123 



When his father Charles died in 1902, Louis spent most of the $4 million he inherited on a new home in 
Oyster Bay, Long Island which he named Laurelton Hall. This would become Tiffany’s Eden — into which 
he infused all his creative energies in his final years. 

The estate was 580 pristine acres, and Tiffany’s love of nature was evident everywhere - from the flowering 
gardens, water lilly pools, and flowing fountains, to the breathtaking vistas of Long Island Sound. 

Lily pool behind Laurelton Hall From Henry H Saylor, 
(< The Country Home of Mr. Louis C. Tiffany,” Country Life 
in America IS (December 1908) 

Gardens with house in distance, Laurelton Hall From 
Henry H. Saylor, (< The Country Home of Mr. Louis C. Tiffany” 
Country Life in America 15 (December 1908) 

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At the center of Laurelton Hall stood four large 
marble columns, the tops of which Louis painstak- 
ingly carved into naturalistic replicas of flowers. 
These columns now stand in the American Wing 
of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

Poppy capital Loggia from Laurelton Hall ca. 1905, 

by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Limestone, ceramic, and favrile glass. 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

Saucer magnolia capital, Loggia from Laurelton Hall, 
ca. 1905, by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Limestone, ceramic, 
and favrile glass. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

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On May 15, 1914 Tiffany organized another fete, this 
time inviting one hundred and fifty prominent New 
Yorkers to “inspect the Spring flowers at Laurelton 
Hall.” He planned to surround them with flowers: 
guests were chauffeured to the mansion along a 
drive lined with blooming laurel. Tiffany’s thirty- 
five gardeners had seen to it that the grounds were 
aglow with blooming phlox, tulips and pansies. 
Wisteria dripped from the terraces and surround- 
ing trees. Laurelton’s fruit trees were in full bloom. 
Yellow orchids (Tiffany’s favorite color) circled the 
main fountain of the courtyard, while voluptuous 
flowers and branches of apple blossoms filled the 

Louis Comfort Tiffany’s final dream was to create an 
art school, where the most talented young American 
artists, regardless of means, could flourish in a beau- 
tiful natural setting; the one he had worked tirelessly 
to create: Laurelton Hall. “It is my dearest wish to 
help young artists of our Country to appreciate more 
the study of Nature, and to assist them in establish- 
ing themselves in the art world,” Louis declared in 
1930, just three years before his death. 

And so, Tiffany established an endowment for prom- 
ising students of many different artistic fields to live 
and study under strict supervision at Laurelton Hall, 
to perfect their craft amid its beautiful surroundings. 
Perhaps Tiffany could cultivate generations of artists 
in America long after his passing — each artist, like 
himself — a creative force who drew his strongest 
inspiration from nature. °° 

Favrile glass “Paperweight” vase decorated with jonquils , made 
ca. 1900 for Louis Comfort Tiffany’s personal collection , and 
later passed to Metropolitan Museum of Art 

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